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Robert Reich: What You Need To Know About This Week’s Primary Elections – OpEd

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A mix of good and bad news in this week’s primaries. Here’s what you need to know. 

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In Democratic primaries:

Missouri senate Democratic primary: Bad news here. A vain trust fund brat who literally doesn’t know what Citizens United is has bought the Democratic nomination. Beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine defeated Lucas Kunce in the Democratic primary after largely self funding her campaign with her family’s vast fortune. Valentine has been described by a St. Louis Democratic insider as “Herschel Walker with more money and fewer concussions.” Valentine’s victory plus the GOP primary results (more below) means this race is now probably Solid/Safe GOP in the fall. Here’s an excellent Alex Sammon piece explaining this in more detail. 

Michigan’s 11th congressional district: Bad news here again. Andy Levin lost to Haley Stevens in another victory for AIPAC. All told, AIPAC and other Republican and conservative front groups shoveled over $4 million into the race to prop up (anti-labor) Stevens and attack (pro-labor) Levin. Stevens also got money from EMILY’s List, which spent considerably more on Stevens than it did to help Jessica Cisneros last month. I have long maintained that EMILY’s List, in most races, is an establishment Democratic protection racket that cynically weaponizes gender identity and is wholly uninterested in progressive economic policies, but that’s a story for another day. This race was a crushing defeat for progressives and another feather in AIPAC’s cap. 

Michigan’s 12th congressional district: Good news here — Rashida Tlaib handily crushed her three primary challengers to secure renomination. This makes Bakari Sellers’ efforts to unseat her a catastrophic flop and hilarious waste of $1 million. 

Michigan’s 13th congressional district: Shri Thanedar, the goofy millionaire with no clear political beliefs who poured millions of his own money into the race, beat AIPAC-backed Adam Hollier by about 5 percentage points. This is a rare AIPAC loss, only because they went up against someone with an equal amount of cash to burn. 

Missouri’s 1st congressional district: Cori Bush comfortably beat her primary challenger, accused rapist Steve Roberts. Evidently Roberts was too toxic even for AIPAC to bankroll. 

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Arizona’s 6th congressional district: Kirsten Engel defeated DMFI-backed Daniel Hernandez by a comfortable margin despite being heavily outspent. But this race also wasn’t a top priority for conservative Dems due to the seat’s rightward trend — DMFI spent considerably less in this race ($75k) than others and AIPAC/UDP didn’t spend a dime, likely because they see it flipping the district to the GOP in November.

In Republican primaries:

For Michigan governor: Tudor Dixon won the GOP Primary, due largely to the financial backing of the DeVos family and Trump’s endorsement. She will face Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the fall. 

Michigan’s 3rd congressional district: Trump-backed Big Lie supporter John Gibbs narrowly defeated incumbent Peter Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is playing with fire, having spent $400k to boost Gibbs in the GOP primary — believing his victory will make the seat more competitive for Dems in the fall. Don’t shed any tears for Meijer either — he ran back in 2018 as a pro-Trump alternative to Justin Amash, and spent his time in Congress defending oil pipelines and criticizing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Michigan secretary of state: Republicans nominated Kristina Karamo, another Big Lie conspiracy theorist, for secretary of state. Karamo not only claims that Trump is currently the rightful president of the U.S. but she has also said that abortion is a form of satanic sacrifice and that “demonic possession is real” and can be transmitted sexually. (I am not making that up. She really said it.)

Missouri’s senate primary: Eric Schmitt has emerged as the victorious Eric, defeating Eric Greitens (who did much worse than expected) and others for the GOP nomination. This makes flipping Missouri much more difficult for Dems in November, who won’t be able to run against a domestic abuser like Greitens. 

Missouri’s 4th congressional district: Mark Alford, a former local news anchor, won the crowded primary for this safe Republican seat. He wants to“fully investigate the 2020 election,” finish the wall, and ban abortion in all cases with no exceptions. 

Missouri’s 7th congressional district: State Senator Eric Burlison won the GOP primary for this heavily red seat. 

Arizona’s senate primary: Backed by billionaire Peter Thiel’s $10 million and Trump, Blake Masters won the primary, albeit with a much narrower margin of victory than expected. Masters has some real liabilities going into November, foremost his stated desire to privatize Social Security, and his embrace of gonzo rightwing “replacement” theory. If Democrat incumbent Mark Kelly is smart, he will lean into these in the general election. 

Arizona governor: Trump-endorsed Kari Lake is now leading Karrin Taylor Robson by a two-point margin after trailing Robson for much of election night. Lake has been claiming for weeks that her own election would be tainted by fraud if she lost, but failed to come up with an example when asked on the spot by a reporter. About 20 percent of ballots are yet to be counted and no final call in the race has been made yet.

Arizona secretary of state: Big Lie supporter Mark Finchem appears to have won the GOP primary. Finchem was personally at the January 6 insurrection and is a member of the white supremacist Oath Keepers militia. He continues to challenge the 2020 election results to this day.

Arizona attorney general: With 55% of the vote in, Trump-backed Abraham Hamadeh is leading the field, followed closely by Rodney Glassman. No official AP call yet. 

Kansas governor: The GOP nominee to take on incumbent Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is Derek Schmidt, currently the Attorney General of Kansas. Schmidt is a right-winger to the core, opposing LGBT rights and abortion rights, fighting against the legalization of marijuana, and joining the GOP lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election. This is going to be a very close race in November. 

Kansas secretary of state: Incumbent Republican Scott Schwab, who rejected Trump’s Big Lie, survived a right-wing primary challenge from election denier Mike Brown. 

Kansas attorney general: The infamous Kris Kobach, who was one of the earliest Birther and voter fraud conspiracy theorists and architect of a brutal voter suppression regime in Kansas, is back. He won the GOP nomination, four years after losing the Governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly. He is heavily favored to win the November election. 

Washington’s 3rd congressional district: Jamie Herrera Beutler, who voted to impeach Trump, looks to be advancing to the November election after finishing second in the jungle primary behind Democrat Marie Perez. She benefitted from a split Pro-Trump GOP primary challenger field. About 40 percent of the vote in the race has yet to be counted.

Washington’s 4th congressional district: Dan Newhouse, who voted to impeach Trump, looks to be advancing to the November election. Again, he benefited from the Republican primary opposition being fractured among several candidates. About 50 percent of the vote has yet to be counted.

**

A special note on secretaries of state: As I noted above, in Arizona, January 6 insurrectionist and election denier Mark Finchem won the Republican nomination for secretary of state, the chief elections officer in the state, and in Michigan, Republicans nominated Kristina Karamo, another Big Lie conspiracy theorist, for secretary of state. 

So far in this primary season, Republicans have also nominated Trump-backed election deniers to oversee elections in Nevada and Pennsylvania. Next week, two more Big Lie candidates could win their party’s nominations in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

If these Trump cronies win in November, they will be in charge of overseeing the 2024 presidential election in the most important battleground states in the country. They will have the power to open or close polling places, count votes, and certify who won. If even one or two of these candidates win in November, it could be enough to tip the balance in a close presidential election and plunge the country into constitutional chaos. 

Many people who vote in presidential elections have no idea who their secretary of state is and might not even bother voting. Between now and November, please do everything you can to alert voters about what’s at stake — especially young people, who tend to vote less often in midterm elections. 

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Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at robertreich.substack.com. Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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